High-Key portraits - advice needed please.

Discussion in 'UK Photography' started by Sorby, Oct 25, 2003.

  1. Sorby

    Sorby Guest

    A friend has seen some lovely B&W high-key portraits and has asked me to
    photograph her two young kids in this style.

    There's no major pressure - she knows I'm an amateur but isn't too
    bothered - if my shots aren't good enough she'll go to the pro's. :eek:)

    Perhaps some of you can help me with a few queries I have please?

    1) Do the pros use large expanses of white cloth or paper? Where do they get
    it from? Is it expensive?

    2) She wants the kids to be shot wearing *white* t-shirts and *dark* blue
    jeans - that should be challenging! Any suggestions? And how do I make sure
    the white t-shirts don't disappear against the white background!!

    3) Finally, I don't have any studio flash or even an hot-shoe mounted
    flash!! I don't mind hiring the necessary kit but wonder if there are any
    short-cuts using natural light or normal constant lighting?

    I'm shooting with an EOS 10D (so will easily be able to compensate for
    colour temperature) and will probably use my 50mm f1.8 lense as my other two
    lenses are optically inferior.

    Any advice gratefully received!

    Sorby, Oct 25, 2003
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  2. +++ You can get really creative here and try soft draped (white or very
    light coloured) fabric for the BG. Probably cheep as well from an remnant
    outlet and some "depth" can be styled into the BG that way to offset the
    white shirts.
    +++ White on white? This is a problem like that set for art-photo classes -
    think "...shooting a Dalmatian in a snow storm". It has more to do with
    composition and modelling and contrasting textures (rather than colours),
    and in the final printing of the work, but exposure of the shirts in the
    overall frame is critical. You have to concentrate there (on the shirts) for
    the image - and in particular BRACKET X5 shots (2 up [-1 and -2] / 1 normal
    meter / 2 down [+1 and +2]) or even X7 shots. Film is cheep compared to
    managing the post-production corrections - digital is even cheaper. Meter on
    a skin tone - the subject's face or the back of your hand - alternately, if
    you have one, an 18% grey card then again on a white card to see the spot
    differences for compensation purposes.
    +++ If you can get the natural light use it. Constant source artificial
    light being the next choice.The modelling will be inherently more natural in
    natural light (see above). Suggest that you plan to make small fill
    corrections using a simple reflector - even a piece of white poster card
    will do - but you will need a helper to manipulate it as you observe the
    effect. As soon as you get into flash you are in a whole different metering
    +++ Have a read here about shooting with digital cameras - especially check
    out "exposure compensation" http://www.dpreview.com/learn/glossary
    journalist-north, Oct 26, 2003
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  3. Sorby

    Sorby Guest

    Thanks for the comprehensive reply. Much appreciated.
    Sorby, Oct 26, 2003
  4. For the backdrop? Yes. Or any other bright toned background.
    A white wall would do as well.
    Pro stores with photo backdrops, stores with fabrics
    (theater supply), expensive is relative, but given you
    are an amateur you possibly consider it expensive, yes.
    No, that is stupid. The concept of high key is bright
    tones all over with either flat hard front lighting or
    very soft overall lighting - minimize visible shadows.
    Give the light some direction, make sure the background
    is either over or below the kids exposure to make a
    That complicates things....
    Michael Quack, Oct 29, 2003
  5. Sorby

    Sorby Guest

    Michael - thank you very much for taking the trouble to reply.
    It is much appreciated. I'll let you know how I get on!
    Sorby, Oct 31, 2003
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